Every runner has got changed in a toilet cubicle. The toilet cubicle is to runners what telephone boxes are to Superman. And, just like Superman, we come out with our pants on wrong.
Changing in a cubicle is difficult. Not only do you have to get legs and arms out of jeans and jumpers, you have to do all that without touching the floor. Or at least any part of the floor that doesn’t look scrupulously clean.
You do the ‘wee wee’ dance. Jigging on the spot, swapping one foot and another on the one bit of the floor that’s dry.
Or you stand on your shoes. Using your shoes as a barrier between you and the ‘flood’.
And you do all that while trying to pack clothes away and take out your t-shirt and shorts without dropping them – or even let them touch! – on the toilet or the floor.
It should be an Olympic sport – toilet changing. It has all the contortions of gymnastics and the high beam with all the danger of the swimming pool, another place with lots of wee.
I was thinking about the problems with changing in the toilet this week as… well… I had problems changing in the toilet.
I’d walked Barney the dog at Whitelee wind farm. My wife was driving home and I thought it would be fun to run the 10 miles back. It’s almost all downhill so it’s a good long easy run.
First, I would have to get changed. So, I popped into the toilets at the vistor’s centre next to the wind farm.
As I was getting changed, a father and son came in. They went into the cubicle next to me. I could hear the father tell his son it was time for a “big boy toilet” and I sincerely hoped his son was a small child and not a fully grown man or this could get really awkward.
I tried not to listen. But they were loud and I could hear the father talk his son through using the toilet. I kept changing, doing the ‘wee wee’ dance before, almost ready, I hit my elbow on the toilet roll holder. It was loose and it had three toilet rolls on it. One active, two spare.
A roll fell.
And disappeared into the cubicle next door.
The son said loudly: “Daddy, should we return it?”
The father said “Yes, in a second”.
And I said nothing.
What could I say? If I said I didn’t need it they might wander why not. What kind of weirdo goes into a toilet and doesn’t need something to wipe? I could offer an explanation. But I didn’t think this was the time to go into the merits of toilet changing. So, instead, I said nothing
Because saying nothing is less awkward than saying something.
Because there’s nothing less awkward than a silent man. In a toilet cubicle. When everyone knows he’s there.
I had do to something. I had to… I know… get changed really, really quickly and leave before they got out! So quickly that –
I hit my shoulder off the cubicle wall. And, worse, my foot had slipped, and I’d touched the floor.
Now, not only had I lost my roll, I was now banging savagely on the walls and screaming obscenities.
I did the only thing I could do.
I stood absolutely stock still until I heard the door open, the toilet flush, the taps run and I was absolutely sure they’d left.
Then I waited five minutes more.
It was the least awkward thing to do.